In the bioeconomy, the role of project consultant in the bioeconomy is somewhat the same as in any industry, and somewhat unique. It requires first and foremost, a clear understanding of everyone’s duties and limitations. When an investor or developer hires a project consultant, what are they right to expect? Someone who can lead and manage different internal teams, prepare, report, and communicate directives, manage task resources and milestones, and comply with the project’s mandates and directives. The PC must be able to analyze ROI and cost-benefits, understand markets and trends, and foresee and head off future difficulties – all while making certain that the project stays within scope, budget, and schedules. The role of project consultant requires an ability to blend many varied talents and perspectives into one integrated project, and the ability to relay a variety of items to many different participants, all in the professional language they speak.
Most large projects are compilations of several smaller projects. However, these smaller segments are often interdependent – each one affecting the others, and most importantly, the result. Without proper oversight, it is not uncommon for projects to stall, or even fail. This is often a result of difficulties in a single area, even when all else seems to be progressing nicely. Project consultants must be good communicators and facilitators, able to view things from the “whole-project” perspective. PC’s know they will inevitably be called upon to unite all the teams and stakeholders to bring the project to an expeditious completion.
As the CEO of the world’s largest bioenergy consulting group for the 25 years, I am fortunate to have a unique opportunity to view many projects in renewable fuels, chemicals, feedstocks, and technologies, from many different perspectives. Within our group we have over 150 experts, each with his or her own approach, developed from their personal experiences and training. The professors, chemists, and other PhD’s on our team often approach from an intellectual perspective, while the engineers, attorneys, accountants, appraisers, financial, and other experts often bring more of a “nuts and bolts” operational perspective. Together, they form a unique “think tank”. Having this depth of knowledge allows our project consultants the comfort of knowing that they are always up to speed with the latest research, the most recent activities, and that we will always have seen the caveats and contrary views.
Project consultants know that lawyers, accountants, and engineers, don’t see a project through the same eyes as grant writers, insurance experts or safety/environmental experts. They do know, however, that in working together, they give the project the best avenue of covering “all the bases” and getting the project completed in the most cost efficient, timely matter.
When clients need a single task done, it is a simple matter of selecting the proper expert(s) to do the work, defining the deliverables and time frame, and setting compensation. The more complex projects, however, are best served with project oversight from beginning to end. These may need an evaluation of technologies, and once selected, assistance in the planning, design, building, and installation. They might need assistance in finding secure sources of feedstock and advice as to selling offtake. They may need to find good permanent managers and qualified technical employees.
What I have noted over the years is that the varying perspectives of those who are funding, those who are building, those who are operating, and those who are providing technical expertise is very different. What I have come to realize is that these varying perspectives can often result in some disorder and delay without the benefit of a third party tasked with weaving all these interests into a good final project in which all are happy. This is the role of the project consultant.
So, how does one choose a project consultant? First, look for those that are objective and of the highest integrity. Second, get someone with the ability to handle difficult news and to manage inevitable changes that occur throughout any project, while maintaining calm. Third, make sure the expert can stay focused on the big picture, and ultimately can coordinate all the moving pieces within the project – while continually keeping an eye on minimizing cost and scheduling overruns. In short, look for someone who can function well as an advisor, team leader, facilitator, trainer, expert, and developer.
In 25 years, my experience has been that owners, managers, investors, lenders, and other project participants have much higher comfort levels when experienced project consultants are engaged. Given the cost of many of these projects and the risks involved, the project consultant is likely one of the project’s best hiring decisions. And, while a good project consultant is undoubtedly a commitment of time and money, the goal is to know that when we finish the project, our knowledge and expertise has saved the client far more than they have invested in us.
At Lee Enterprises Consulting, this standard is what I demand in any project consultants assigned from our team and is one we will always maintain. Look at our 150+ experts and the services we provide. Most of our experts are also available to advise and serve as expert witnesses in bioeconomy litigation matters. For the larger projects, we specialize in putting together full service, interdisciplinary teams with one point of contact. See video about LEC here. Call us at 1+ (501) 833-8511 or email us for more information.